Residents of the Village of Fountainview spent Thursday surveying the damage and finding alternative living arrangements as the Newark condominium continues to deal with the fallout from a sprinkler leak.
“It was a nightmare,” said Carrie Bolen, president of the condo association.
The main sprinkler line ruptured in the attic of the 3000 Building on Wednesday evening, sending water cascading down onto all four floors of the 64-unit building and forcing 120 residents to evacuate.
“We were walking through six inches of water on every floor,” said Bolen, who lives in a neighboring building that was not affected. “The amount of water that came out in the 35 minutes it ran was enormous.”
On Thursday, employees from the water damage restoration company ServPro were on scene beginning a lengthy cleanup process. Residents were escorted into their condos to pick up personal belongings.
Newark Planning Director Renee Bensley said city building inspectors are working with the condo association to inspect units. She is hopeful that some residents will be able to return home soon.
“We're working hard to get people back in their homes as quickly as we can,” Bensley said. “We know something like this is very difficult. While we can't change what happened, we want to try to mitigate the harm for them by getting them back into their homes as quickly as possible.”
The leak happened on the northern side of the building, and it appears that units in the southern half of the building are relatively unscathed.
“There was some water in the hallways, but it did not appear to have gotten into units,” Bensley said. “But we don't know that until we get into all of them.”
Officials are still evaluating the extent of the damage in the half of the building nearest the leak.
Bolen said the condo association has identified at least eight units that will be uninhabitable for a significant amount of time. She noted that a smaller leak happened in the 2000 Building a few years ago, and part of that building was closed for several months.
Bensley said the cause of the leak has not yet been determined. The city has seen a few sprinkler leaks lately but none as severe as the one at Fountainview. Burst pipes are common at this time of year due to freezing and unfreezing, she said.
The fact the leak happened in the attic maximized damage.
“It was above the fourth floor, which is the top floor, and water runs down the path of least resistance. If it had been a break on the second floor or first floor, it would not have been nearly as much damage,” Bensley said. “It's sad to see people's homes being damaged. Water tends to be pretty indiscriminate in the ways that it goes.”
The sprinkler system was repaired late Thursday afternoon, but the building was still waiting on repairs to the fire alarm panel, which was damaged in the flood.
The city still needs to inspect the electrical system for damage. Officials also plan to evaluate whether there are any concerns about the sprinkler systems in the other Fountainview buildings.
“Right now, we're focused on this building, and we'll be looking at that after we triage this immediate situation,” Bensley said.
The Village of Fountainview, a 55+ adult community located near the Newark Senior Center, consists of three condominium buildings and three-dozen townhouses. The flooded building, which is the one nearest Library Avenue, has 64 units.
The flooding began around 6 p.m. Wednesday, when automatic fire alarms went off inside 3000 Fountainview Circle, according to Lawrence Tan, a spokesman for Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company.
Firefighters helped residents evacuate, and a city building inspector condemned the building. There were initially a few holdouts who refused to leave, and city officials debated legal options, but ultimately everyone left voluntarily.
Many of the residents are staying with relatives or friends, but those without immediate shelter were taken to Aetna Fire Hall.
“It's just a bad night for a lot of people,” said former mayor Jerry Clifton, who lives in an adjacent Fountainview building that was not affected.
The amount of water that flooded into the building was overwhelming, said Clifton, who was at the fire hall helping neighbors.
“I stood outside on the north end and just watched the water flow over balconies,” he said.
Clifton said hotels in the area stepped up to offer discounted rates to people affected by the flooding.
“I'm thinking this is going to be a long, painful process for people,” he said, while praising the quick response of firefighters, police and city officials.
Bolen also praised the cooperation of residents.
“The residents are not complaining. They're thankful that they even have any of their belongings,” she said. “They've all been wonderful.”
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